Friday, June 25, 2021

‘Riverdale’s Drew Ray Tanner Teases Tonight’s “Emotional” Graduation Episode

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Riverdale

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Tonight on The CW, the gang from Riverdale finally graduates high school. It’s been a long, dangerous journey, and not all of them have survived. But one of those survivors — nay, one of those thrivers — has been Drew Ray Tanner’s Fangs Fogarty.

First introduced as part of the South Side Serpents gang in Season 2, and initially meant to only have a two-episode arc, Tanner has since grown to become a crucial part of the ensemble, a beloved friend of the fanbase, and one-half of the popular couple Kangs, a.k.a. Kevin Keller (Casey Cott) and Fangs Fogarty. Not only that, but as of Season 5, Tanner is officially a series regular.

“It’s been life changing, honestly,” Tanner told Decider of the role in advance of tonight’s big graduation episode.

The hour, written by showrunner Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and directed by Gabriel Correa, finds the gang grappling with the most dangerous enemy of all: their future.

To find out more about Tanner’s journey, what to expect from Fangs on “Chapter Seventy-Nine: Graduation,” and a little tease about what’s coming seven years from now (i.e., next week), read on.

Decider: You’ve had a pretty amazing journey on the show from auditioning a few times, to nabbing an ensemble part, to now with this season getting promoted series regular. What has that journey been like for you?

Drew Ray Tanner: It’s been life changing, honestly. You know, the initial reaction to booking a part on the show was one of extreme excitement… It was interesting, I don’t know what it did to my psyche at the time, but realizing that I only had a couple episodes to do, and that this is what I was going to offer to this universe. It put me in a headspace that made me full of gratitude, and full of really, just really looking forward to those two episodes, whatever I could do within that time.

I always came to work with the feeling of being really happy to be here and I guess that energy just carried out. It allowed me to work freely and not make everything all about me. But I felt like I was contributing to something that was much larger than myself.

Just to be there and I remember thinking, “Oh, this character is actually based off of an Archie Comics character, there was a Fangs Fogarty in the little Archie Comics.” And that tickled me. I thought that was amazing, and so much fun. So after that I could have probably died happy, to see where it’s come to now. That feeling of gratitude, that feeling of excitement, and it’s just quadrupled. Photo: The CW

That’s only grown bigger, though, now that you’re part of a full fledged ‘ship with Kevin Keller. How has that changed things for you as an actor, and with the fans?

I really was very happy with the way that they approached it, I don’t think that it was something that they planned. Initially, when I first was to play things, it wasn’t like a long term plan.

Because if I had come in as, let’s say, just the love interest, I still could have done that, which is the actor’s job. But it’s just even better and more seamless when you have two years to work on a character, because now you just got to insert that character into this person’s life. And so all of the decisions that he makes within that relationship makes so much sense to move in, making choices, and we really explore that a lot in the fifth season.

It’s at this point where the chemistry between Casey [Cott] and I, as friends and then our characters in the show, we’ve had so much time to build upon that as just friends before we even think of something romantic. So it’s been great.

And I think the fans really respond to it well, too, because also without them, I don’t think that this would have happened, because any moment that Kevin and Fangs had in the show, fans picked up on that and they helped catapult into a place where, “the fans actually respond well to this, so let’s, let’s run with that.” I feel like without them, I wouldn’t be where I’m at today.

It was really cool and interesting to see the long game, and the patience of the fans and the patience of the writers to really flesh it out.

They gave us enough time, and it kept us interested.

I don’t think it’s too much of a spoiler to say that the gang graduates this episode, but it is surprising to see that there aren’t really dark mysteries, so much as a lot of raw emotion. What was it like approaching this very different sort of episode?

It was emotional, because there aren’t a lot of times where the whole gang gets to be together… There’ve only been a few moments that I can remember where all of us worked together in such a monumental way. And the truth of the matter is, is that it really felt like graduation. I mean, if you remember graduating high school, it’s four years, you’re learning so much about yourself, you’re growing, and you’re surrounded by people that you’ve been with for like a long time. It felt like that, because there’s so much drama in high school when you’re when you’re a kid. And then you get to your graduation, and everything just slows down for a second. You’re like, “oh, wait, there are these things that I cared about a month ago, so much that it doesn’t even matter.”

They really did a great job in the show of nailing that because the truth is that, yeah, there’s been so much that these kids have gone through on the show.

On set, it was this sort of feeling of, “guys, there’s one last day of [being] high school students, it’s their last day before they redress the high school and make it look seven years in the future, and that we’re not walking down it as high school students, but we’re actually walking down it as adults. This is the last time I’ll carry a book bag. This is the last time I’ll have my locker with all the stuff inside and you guys too.” It was touching. It snuck up on us. Just like life does.

It’s pretty seamless on the screen, but behind the scenes you’re dealing with the realities of filming with COVID protocols. What was it like, particularly filming these big graduation scenes?

Funny, we have a lot of mannequins in the room. There were a lot of mannequins in the crowd to fill out the room and make it look like there’s a bunch of students there, but there were a lot of fake individuals, mannequin pieces and stuff like that. So, it felt a little Truman Show to us, it had some elements of the uncanny.

But the feeling of crossing that stage with … the real auditorium, it just felt very real, especially when you can drop yourself into a real location and there’s not a lot of acting that needs to be required to do.

It felt real to me. And Lili [Reinhart]’s got a speech in this episode, she nailed it. She hit it out of the park, didn’t have to be a room full of people and 200 extras to make that impactful. She did a great job with that.

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What can you tease about post-time jump Fangs? I mean, we know that he and Kevin Keller are going to be living together. Toni Topaz is living with them. And you had a tease on Instagram, with something that seemed like a walkie-talkie that’s definitely driving fans crazy.

[Laughs] Yes, walkie talkies. Well, I’ll say that Kevin’s working a job that you would expect and Fangs isn’t, based on, he goes off to the University of Pittsburgh and so the career he’s chosen after going to university is not one that makes a lot of sense for having gone to university.

But everyone will see what that means next week.

Is he the new sheriff of Riverdale?

No, no, no. That’d be awesome! Fangs as the sheriff. I could see how that could be construed that way. No, unfortunately, not yet.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

Riverdale airs Wednesdays at 8/7c on The CW.

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